Image 01 Image 03

Authorize the Use of Force

Authorize the Use of Force

The conventional wisdom is answering the wrong question.

I agree with just about every criticism of Obama’s handling of the Middle East and Syria in particular — in fact, I’ve made the arguments myself for years.

I agree with just about every criticism of Obama’s “red line” and dawdling and backing himself and our nation into a policy corner where we have no good options and have squandered credibility.

I agree with just about every criticism that Obama is seeking Congressional authorization, or denial, for cynical political purposes.

I agree with just about every criticism of Obama’s vague plan to fire across Syria’s bow.

I agree with just about every criticism that we don’t know where things end if Assad falls.

I agree with just about everything that is conventional wisdom. Except the conclusion, because the conventional wisdom is answering the wrong question.

Congress is not asked to approve a “plan” or a “strategy” or how many missiles get fired, if at all, at what time of day and on what targets.  I don’t understand — militarily or politically — why some people want to take on that burden.

Congress is asked to authorize the use of force by the President of the United States if, as, and when the President deems it necessary to address the use and transfer of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in, to or from Syria.

If the facts are that the Assad government used chemical weapons to kill over one thousand civilians, then the President should have that authority as it is in our national interest to forestall the large-scale use and spread of weapons of mass destruction.  That we cannot or should not do it in every case does not mean the President should not have authority in this case.

Whether, when and how to use force with regard to Syria, and the success or not, then will and should be on the President, and the President alone as Commander-in-Chief.

For better or worse, at least since World War II many burdens have fallen on us more so than on other nations.

It is our destiny as the world’s only shining city upon a hill.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.



What about the thousands of civilians in Syria who have died and been maimed by conventional weapons in the last few years?
Are they no less dead or maimed than these victims of chemical weapons? Why have you not been calling for vengeance for them? What will this accomplish? What will this prevent? Like Sandy Hook, a big noise, a big gesture that will not address or solve the problem, but gosh, those in favor of it SEEM SO MORAL….

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to connus. | September 2, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    I see no point in attacking Assad. Much of the ME should be turned into a sea of glass, ending all threat coming from that part of the world.

    Go big or go home.

    Obastard doesn’t have the cojones to do the job right. I wouldn’t trust him with a spit wad.

I had a hard time making up my mind on this one. I very much appreciate your point and your thoughtful post, but I disagree. I have laid out my thinking over at The Diplomad, but it boils down to this: Obama is not to be trusted. His “use of force” is a sham. It will do nothing to deter Assad, much less remove him or make him become a good person. Obama’s request for Congressional authorization is driven solely by his realization that he has no support for a terrible policy and is trying to drag others into sharing responsibility for the crash landing, people he didn’t want in on the take off. Congress should vote “NO” and the President, who claims to have the authority to use force, and I think he probably does, should go ahead and use it. If the policy is a success–I am not sure how defined–then Obama can bask in another “I killed Osama” moment. If it is a disaster, well, he built it, he alone owns it.

    stevewhitemd in reply to Diplomad. | September 2, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Doubtless The Diplomad, the Professor, and other older guys (like me) also remember the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. After an attack — that wasn’t — by the North Vietnamese on American ships, the Congress gave LBJ a blank check for Vietnam.

    Reading the resolution that is to be debated, it seems that Mr. Obama is asking for a blank check. Congress authorizes “the use of force”, and Obama determines whether that is limited to lobbing missiles at a camel or a full-scale invasion of Syria.

    For me also it is the trust issue. I have no confidence in Mr. Obama. I don’t see how giving him a blank check, or even a two-dollar check, advances our foreign policy in a way that does us credit.

    We need a new President. We won’t get one until 2017 (and then we’d better watch out) so until then I think it’s best to keep this one from causing too much more trouble.

    Vote no.

PersonFromPorlock | September 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Sorry, but letting the Obama administration pick up a loaded gun is supremely irresponsible, regardless of what the right thing to do would be with a competent/trustworthy president.

It’s too late for our country to be the shining city on the hill. Now we’re run by a corrupt, stinking regime that abuses its power and abuses its citizen. And I don’t mean the Obama administration, though that’s part of it. If we want to aspire to the shining city, it will be by self-restraint in the use of power, whether against other countries or against our own citizens or health care system.

Don’t agree. Tens of thousands Africans have been killed in the most awful ways imaginable by machete-wielding savages acting as agents for dictators. Was it in our interest to intervene? Did we torture ourselves over this in the manner we do with a few hundred killed by chemical weapons in a fratricidal conflict between two equally brutal and non-democratic parties? No. Harsh but true.

There is no U.S. national security interest in Syria. And we are not the world’s policeman.

Our attentions are better directed at our own existential problems. We currently need to concern ourselves with the “Constitutional authority” of the President to wage war on American citizens. We need to address his serial and outrageous domestic depredations. If Congress returns to debate any issue, it should be that one. We should be discussing the state and nature of balanced power in our government, and the concept of impeachment. Without addressing these pressing problems, we shortly won’t be in a position to help ANYBODY anywhere.

    Andy in reply to raven. | September 2, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Chemical weapons were used… while it may have been the rebels or other influence and not Assad- we cannot sit on our hands. This section of the world understands heads on a pike and nothing else.

    I am all for sending bacon draped coffins to these Koranimals over sending our men in to save them from their own hate, but the Chemical weapons line means heads must go on a pike. The question is whose?

      Phillep Harding in reply to Andy. | September 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      The question is indeed “Whose?” Both sides are perfectly capable of killing hundreds, thousands, of their own side if they think they can blame the deaths on the other side.

      Impossible dream, I know, but I keep thinking that Syria is the perfect place to dump all those feral hogs overrunning the farms and ranches in the US and the extra dogs in the shelters. (Dogs are regarded as more unclean than pigs, if you check the Koran. Westerners would rather waste a pig than a dog is all.)

    gregjgrose in reply to raven. | September 2, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Doubtful machete wielding savages are much of a terror threat here. Nerve gas OTOH???

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to gregjgrose. | September 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      They were not savages.if it is Rwanda you are referencing. They included catholic nuns who barricaded Tutsis in their church where they had fled for sanctuary & who then burnt them alive.

      Is machete bad but burning fine? This Is also what the Croats did to he Serbs but the Serbs shooting Muslim men was a war crime.

      In short civil war brings out behaviours we thought we had evolved from.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to raven. | September 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Agreed. While I agree with the Professors post on the proper role of congress in this situation, I don’t believe that we should be intervening in this situation. While I abhor the loss of life, one attack will not stop this regime. Also, it should be taken into account that no matter what side wins they will not be our ally. This is a no win situation for us. Also, it seems kind of hypocritical for us to bomb Syria and to then leave Iran’s nuke program untouched, or should we wait until they actually use a nuke to get involved?

Do not let this kindergartener go to war. Force President tiny dick to work with Israel on containing this disaster.

The poetic justice of Obama having to get out his knee pads and make nice with BB is what is needed here.

Unfortunately, that shining light is red, as we’ve prostituted our ideals of liberty and basic human rights. Those commodities have become bargaining chips with which to finagle and coerce the despot du jour.

The time for being the world’s policeman should be over. We should esteem other nations’ sovereignty as highly as we do our own. Instead of backing despots, only to have the situation blow up in our faces later, we should exert pressure and influence with our treatment of governments after they’ve assumed power.

Obviously, it’s a complicated and messy business, but a simpler, more transparent approach to foreign policy would leave far fewer ticking time bombs to deal with down the road. I’m not talking about isolationism. Those days are over.

Personally, if I were a member of Congress, I’d vote “present”.

Right back atcha, Barack.

From The Lips Of Charlie Rangel regarding Obama’s redline mentality, of all people…

(rated: a must see)

Professor, you might want to have a look at the Lawfare Blog; they think the AUMF as submitted by the White House is dangerously broad:

FWIW, I think Congress should set limits on the authorization, including a sunset clause, but specifying operational targets and timing usurps the President’s Article II powers.

    You raise a good point, that is, of the third option, the tertium quid.

    If Congress wants to play smart politics AND do the right thing it should consider conditioning any authorization on an explication by the Obama White House on how a few missiles in Syria address the problem not only of chemical weapons but of Syria’s relationship with Iran and those related larger and long-term problems and what Obama’s solution or plan for this is.

    Congress must finally begin to demonstrate the understanding that it is dealing with an unprecedentedly bad faith group of people in this administration and that the old play book no longer applies. THIS is in or national interest, and also in the GOP’s interest. If Obama wants a public discussion, we should give him one; Congress should exploit its power and role in society to the ends of exposing the shallow and self-serving nature of this administration and the fact that is has no solution in Syria or anywhere else and seems to wish only to advance the cause of radical Islam.

    But of course it won’t.

    The problem is, we are living through a perfect storm of national domestic dysfunction. That is, we have a uniquely bad faith executive at a time when we’ve ceded far too much power and leeway to the Executive, and we have a supine and fear-driven Congress when we most need a strong and resolute one to fill the void of leadership.

I’d agree with you if we had two things we don’t have now: 1) A healthy military ready to commit to 5+ years of interdiction to root out the WMDs (if there are WMDs), and 2) Support from those next in the line of fire, namely Europe.

Thanks to Dubya and Obama, we have a military stretched beyond its means with battle weary troops. The preservation of our power and stature should have come first, but Dubya had to pay back Saddam Husein for what he did to H.W. We need some time to regroup and rebuild. We need a stronger economy, too. If we keep up this war pace and borrow the resources, we will put ourselves in worse danger than we are in now.

And Europe, our spoiled defense-welfare child, has no resolve to defend itself. How long must we keep playing daddy to them? Had we weaned them decades ago, they’d have had an interest in keeping the peace in the middle east. If they had exercised self interest along with us, there wouldn’t be so many war-ready towel-heads bombing and gassing their own, the Christians and Israel.

So, I’m a no vote.

There is absolutely no national interest in the Syrian civil war. War is a very nasty business as any examination of history will quickly demonstrate. These phony “authorization of force” fig leaves do not fit with the responsibility of Congress to declare war either. The united States is not the worlds nanny. There is a mess in the Mid East so let the other states in the Mid East deal with this. There is no way the U.S. is going to stop the spread of anything and the sooner everyone figures this out the better we will all be. That includes the U.N. or any there state. England sold the Syrian government the makings for the present batch of poison gas.

The bottom line for me is… the continued incompetence of the Obama administration when it comes to foreign policy. Barack can’t be trusted not to destabilize Assad’s regime and create yet another power vacuum in the middle east. He’s proven himself to be a miserable failure and if the congress were smart, the wouldn’t want their fingerprints anywhere on a military strike.

This post shows what is wrong with academia today. All the reasons for not giving authorization to strike are given, then dismissed or at least still allowing the president to attack. We know that most if not all of the evidence for gas attacks has come from Israel. Israeli intelligence is providing all of the intel to the u.s. We know Israel hates Assad and wants him gone, so lots of trumped up intel to cause the U.S. to go to war for Israel. The conclusion at the end of the post reveals that no matter what the truth is on the ground in Syria, Assad must still be eliminated for Israel’s sake. Doctors without Borders says actual death toll is 355, not 1500. There is also evidence that rebels used gas not Assad. This will be ignored as it does not fit the narrative. Also what about all the Christians being killed in Egypt, Libya and Syria if the Jihadis get their way. If it were Jews who were being killed by Jihadis there would be world wide outcry and U.S. would have Marines attacking 24/7.

    Pablo in reply to Alex234. | September 2, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    The conclusion at the end of the post reveals that no matter what the truth is on the ground in Syria, Assad must still be eliminated for Israel’s sake.

    That’s just silly. Israel also knows who’s fighting Assad, and it’s not an upgrade from their perspective.

    Even sillier? Israel isn’t mentioned at all. I take it you’ve got a thing for them.

      rantbot in reply to Pablo. | September 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      “Even sillier? Israel isn’t mentioned at all. I take it you’ve got a thing for them.”

      You must be new here.

I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I do not believe in giving a toddler a loaded handgun.

    Browndog in reply to Valerie. | September 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    That is the point.

    In this case, the toddler says he can do whatever he wants, and doesn’t need any permission from anybody.

    Have at it, chief.

We didn’t need to jump in when Iran and Iraq were gassing each other. We certainly don’t need to jump in when it’s confined to Syria.

Any suggestion that such weapons would be used against us would get a country flattened in short order. There is no American security issue here. Further, Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, so they’re not breaking the law, which is why we keep hearing about “norms” instead of law.

If the UN can’t be assed to pick a side, I don’t see why I should either.

“If the facts are that the Assad government used chemical weapons to kill over one thousand civilians, then the President should have that authority…

What should Mr. Nobel Peace Prize have the authority to do exactly? Topple Assad so that groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaeda and member of the Syrian Opposition can help create a Morsi-like regime in Syria? Would we rather the chemical weapons fall into their hands?

Why do we think this won’t boomerang back to Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood feels they are waging a just and similar war against their military junta?

If anti-Assad forces come into power and start avenging themselves on pro-Assad civilians, will there be another military intervention just so we are morally consistent?

Hey, how’s Libya working out for us, anyway?

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Pablo. | September 2, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    And let’s not forget Egypt. In the space of a year, obastard managed two of the most colossal cock-ups in our history.

    I wouldn’t give the SOB approval to swat a gnat.

    I’d like to see a ‘pub with some stones put forward a resolution that obastard spend his waning time in office on the golf course, STFU, and not sign ANYTHING…..just for the well-deserved insult in would be in reply to his request for authorization.

      The only GOPer with the stones for that is Gov. Sarah Palin, who’s turned the ridicule back on Obama, which has been picked up by the UK press. So, haste ye over to her FB page and make the suggestion. She just might take you up on it.

I don’t think the President needs Congress to hit Syria with limited prophylactic or retaliatory strikes, even to the point of infiltrating Special Forces teams to spot targets.

As far as the WPA’s “imminent danger” and “national emergency” phrases, they are not very precisely defined, but with every major terrorist group fielding armed forces in the region of the WMDs, it’s surely close enough for gummint work.

In matters of foreign policy, Congress should default to deference to the President.

Hey, I don’t trust Obama either. He’s dishonest, he puts his own and his cronies’ interests ahead of our national interests, he is weak and feckless in foreign affairs. But he did get elected.

Elections matter. All these quasi-libertarian weenies crying about it now should have showed up last November. Oh, you didn’t like Romney? Well, that was your choice. I have a hard time feeling sorry for you if your life has been so soft that you always get your preferred choices. Cowboy up.

    Obama got elected and so did the members of Congress. Members of Congress are responsible for representing their constituents and/or exercising their best judgment. They don’t need to authorize or pay for this.

So, what happened to the rule of law? Are we back to the “Might Makes Right” theory of international relations?

There is no legal justification for the United States to attack Syria. None, nada, zip, zilch. Syria has not attacked any of its neighbors. It has not violated any treaties to which it is a signatory. It has not attacked the United States, her citizens, her property or her direct interests. The weapons were used in a, more or less, internecine conflict restricted to one state. The weapons used were used in only a small area and do not threaten the neighboring states in any way. And, to top it all off, no hard evidence has been presented that the government of Syria is even responsible for the release of the agents involved.

So, what exactly gives the United States the legal right to intervene, directly, in the sovereign nation of Syria? The fact that we are the biggest kid on the block? Are we intent upon spelling bully, “USA”? Is it our “Manifest Destiny”? Having the power, we now get to make the rules? If we can’t be expected to honor the rule of law, why should anyone else be expected to do so?

I think that we should forget the crappy slogans, such as the “shining city on the hill” and base our actions on reason and the law. That isn’t too much ask of lawyers, is it?

I wouldn’t authorize Obama to do anything. The world will have to get by without the US until US leaders can be trusted again.

The world won’t come to an end without the authorization.

There’s a place for red lines, but Syria ain’t it. In the Middle East, that place could be Israel or it could be Iran; either is arguable. But Syria is just noise.

Assad is not a menace, no matter what weapons he has or uses, because he has no dreams of world, or even regional, domination. Now if we had reason to believe that he was planning to partition Czechoslovakia, occupy Matsu and Quemoy, invade South Korea, militarize the Rhineland, cut the Polish Corridor, install ICBM launchers in Cuba, or engage in geoploitical brinksmanship of a similar order, that would be a different matter. But, like old Gaddafi, he’s basically content to sit where he is. (Young Gaddafi was a different matter; back then he considered himself a revolutionary, a sort of neo-Trotsky, and he devoted Libya’s non-inconsiderable financial resources to The Cause.)

As for demonstrating to Iran, Russia, or China that America is resolved to defend its interests, I’m afraid that ship sailed years ago, with O’s inauguration. Internationally, Obama is nothing but a flake. Illogical, unreliable, vacillating, frivolous, confused, and ineffective. While the American press may pretend otherwise, I doubt that any poobahs in Tehran, Moscow, or Beijing have illusions about The Won. He simply isn’t a factor in world affairs. Petulantly firing off some munitions at some unfortunate Syrians won’t change that; all it might do is further confirm the idea that Obama is internationally irrelevant.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | September 2, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I don’t like this advise. Syria is an Iranian puppet state, with at least some backing from China and Russia. There is a chance an attack on Syria will lure Iran in. I suspect that’s what many neocons secretly want. I don’t. At least not alone. Bush mustered 40 nations to join the coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has managed to pull together a coalition of zero – not even the U.S. Congress is sure to go along. It is unconscionable to ask our military to engage in another ground war in the event bombing Syria causes a military response from Iran.

Let’s say Obama does his stupid “shot across the bow” and Iran, China and Russia all stay out of it. And Assad ultimately falls. Then what? Where do all those chemical weapons go? There’s no guarantee they end up in friendly hands. It’s my understanding the U.S. friendly rebels are outnumbered by those unfriendly to the U.S.

If the rationale for attacking Syria really is to “punish” Assad for using chemical weapons, then Obama needs to get nations who signed the treaty banning them to go on the record supporting the attack even if they don’t participate in it directly. So far, only France has done that and they are getting cold feet.

The president already has the authority to use military force in Syria, or anywhere else. It’s in the Constitution. He’s the commander in chief. Period. He does not need congressional authorization to attack in Syria over chemical weapons any more than Thomas Jefferson needed congress to authorize him to clean out the Barbary pirates. If someone had suggested that Jefferson did not have the authority, he probably would have thought they were crazy.

I am actually sympathetic to the idea that the US should take the lead in suppressing WMDs around the world. I would consider supporting a plan to send troops in solely for the purpose of finding and destroying chemical weapons, regardless of which side used them.

But that’s not what Obama has (unnecessarily) asked for nor has he shown anything resembling the competence necessary to get that job done.

He went to Congress mostly just to buy time. He has a long history of going around congress when he wants, whether it is legal or not. Now he wants them to give him an alibi, whichever way things go.

We can’t save him from looking weak by giving him an authorization he does not need. So forget it. Let him dangle.

Anyone want to bet he’ll do whatever he pleases no matter how congress votes?

    I could conceal several poison gas artillery shells in the trunk of my car.

    Do you propose to check the trunk of every car (or basement, attic, bureau, closet, etc.) in all of Syria? In all of the Middle East? In all the World?

    Not to mention that poison gas can be formulated by any competent (or even incompetent) organic chemist with ease from readily available industrial chemicals.

    How would the US ever know when it’s “duty” to scour the world for WMDs had been completed? Or do we simply continue a never ending “stop and frisk” of the entire globe? Where are those resources–manpower, treasure, and national will–supposed to come from?

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      I proposed nothing. I said I would consider a proposal. Note that the word “consider” conveys uncertainty as to the outcome.

      You have made some good arguments against such a proposal that would have to be CONSIDERED as well.

      Got it?

[…] The smart professor at Legal Insurrection has some smart things to say before coming out the wrong side of the rabbit hole: […]

Obama is divorced from America. America, and the world, from Obama.

The two should never be conflated, especially for the benefit of Obama, when it suits him.

McCain said today that not giving Obama a blank slate and America’s blessing will do irreversible damage to all future Presidents.


In 2 1/2 years there will be a new CIC….all bound by the legacy Obama left?

NO on authorization. There are atrocities being committed all over the Middle East on a daily basis. This one in Syria is not special. It forces a decision for one reason only: Obama’s loose mouth and his need to get bailed out on it. He talked himself into it, sneering at Congress every inch of the way, and so he can just talk himself out of it.

There is nothing Obama can do to rehab his or America’s credibility overseas for the rest of his term. He has gone lame duck to our allies even, and soon will at home. Obama has screwed up his approach to Syria from the beginning and is still stumbling.

His appeal to congress is cynically political and no matter what the results of a yes OR no vote on authorization by congress, he will steal accolades, if any, and blame congress, which is far more likely.

Vote NO. Handcuff this idiot before he gets a chance to get even more Americans killed. Lame duck.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Henry Hawkins. | September 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Yes Syria is not a central issue In our election this week but Australian people are one ally saying FFS. The voters are sick of war refugees from stupid conflicts turning up demanding tea & all services that a western nation has developed .

    The days of universal sympathies are going & almost gone.

Must read: Ed Rogers, WaPo:

“The president is a spent force, both domestically and internationally. Congress should help by voting to cut our losses; it should resist opening the door to the uncertain consequences of a military campaign conducted, without conviction or clear purpose, by this commander in chief. If Republicans can limit the president’s authority to wander and blunder on the world stage, there is a moral obligation to do so.”

I am utterly astonished to hear such total unConstitutional insanity from you.

By your concept, there are no limits to what wars POTUS can begin, or continue, based on ‘he thinks they may do a bad thing to us (or apparently to someone else) some day’.

To hell with Congress, right ? It’s a ‘mere courtesy’ for POTUS to even ask them to rubber stamp what he’s going to do anyway ?

Fuck Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, right ?

As a presidential candidate in 2007, Obama agreed: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

So, you now disagree with him ? If he wants us to go into North Korea, or Iran, or Lebanon, or ANY other place, that’s OK with you ?

BannedbytheGuardian | September 2, 2013 at 6:50 pm

If Israel thought it was a problem then they would have some gravitas to act. Ditto Lebanon.

Sarin gas lurks at ground level & sub ground eg drains & sewers for some time. It also can affect the water supply. i am one of the few people on earth who are not suddenly experts on the suburbs of Damascus but one would think ithe sarin has travelled across to the rest of Damascus via air , on clothing or through the water supply.

It is highly possible for a small group to launch a sarin attack. The Japenese cult had an isolated property in Australia where they experimented ( not widely published & not publicly investigated & therefore not verifiable ) . A subway would be a much more direct hit than atmospherically wafting through buildings etc. we should all revisit that to make a lay judgement. IMO.

I was sure Aussie would be here but I don’t like to bring in our situation thinking it to be important. However we have an election on Saturday with a likely change of government. The sitting Labor PM & foreign affairs guy has taken Obama’s side. The ‘conservative’ candidate & current opposition leader has declared Syria to be Baddies vs Baddies.

By Sunday you can count Australa out. Yesterday he doubled down whilst visiting the army base outside of Sydney. ( also looks like they are out as customers for the new F strike force jets . From 120 order to nil? ) .

While we are at it – and I never took sides – wasn’t there the Phosphorous attacks on the Palestinians a few years back ? Allegedly.

Never do any enemy a small injury.

Niccolò Machiavelli


I disagree with you on this one.

But I thank you very much for having an open and honest discussion with so many others – your site in one of the few places left where people are allowed to disagree without calling each other names or demonizing each other.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration will not and can not discuss anything without demonizing the opposition.

Which is another reason why we can not authorize the use of force to set Obama policy.

A Must Read from the perspective of Israel:

Would a US strike really be ‘effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now’?

During WWII we managed to kill orders of magnitude more Germans and Japanese with totally conventional high explosives and incendiaries than Assad has (allegedly) killed with his poison gas weapons.

To wit, the bombing of Dresden killed over 20,000 in February 1945. The Meetinghouse Raid on Tokyo killed over 100,000 in May 1945.

More people are routinely killed with small arms and even machetes in armed combat events than have been killed by Assad’s (alleged) use of chemical weapons.

I would suggest that in order to be truly meaningful the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” ought to involve an emphasis on the issue of “mass destruction.” There has been nothing unusually “massive’ about the destruction wrought by Assad’s (alleged) use of poison gas, relative to the other means by which about 100,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict.

I’ll leave all the very reasonable arguments about not putting a loaded pistol in the hands of an idiot–no matter how well intentioned that idiot may be–to others, as they are driving that point home marvelously.

–Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    A thousand guns do not let you kill a million people in a day or a week.

    A thousand pounds of Sarin do.

    Big difference.

    Which does not change my belief that we need to stay the hell out of Syria. LET Assad and Al Queda have at it.

    When and if anyone threatens US with it, then it’s time for some remedial temperature adjustments to the region.

    About 2,000 degrees worth.

      Whatever capability Assad possessed to deliver death to a million people via poison gas after Obama drew his red line in the sand, Assad already possessed BEFORE Obama drew his red line in the sand. Certainly no one is suggesting he acquired this capability only after Obama drew his line.

      Nothing has changed in terms of these capabilities between before and after that line in the sand. Except Obama’s rhetoric. By news accounts, Assad has already used chemical weapons not once but many times (ranging between 10 and 14 depending on the national intelligence service one listens to). Any “bright line” had already long been crossed.

      If we weren’t willing to go to war before, why now? Certainly not because Assad has killed another thousand or two of his own citizens, by whatever means, in a war that has already claimed 100,000+ of them.

      In any case, what is Obama’s proposal to prevent Assad from using these weapons in the future? An artillery shell loaded with poison gas looks much like any other artillery shell, and is as easily transported and hidden. Absent control of the ground, there is NO WAY to impose our will on Assad in such a manner as to practically inhibit his ability to use the same weapons in the future.

      So, we bomb a bunch of empty buildings, and Assad then launches another round of gas shells.

      Then what?

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

[…] so it is that a limited military strike in Syria, as the Administration proposes, may be too little, too […]

BannedbytheGuardian | September 2, 2013 at 8:17 pm

If I knew what exactly happened at Benghazi & what the CIA were up to – I would be able to evolve into looking at this .

I have a sneaky suspicion that whatever the CI A were up to was not something that the USa wants known.

Count me in as non evolved to the higher principles of US morals.

    Dismissed out of hand, at first, I now do believe Obama was arming al Qaida in Syria via Turkey, through the CIA post in Benghazi.

    No idea what Obama is up to, or what he has up his sleeve.

    Two things I do know:

    -Obama has never, and will never, have this country’s best interest in mind.

    -Whoever, whatever he is, no need for Congress to bless it.

    At the end of a very long tiered set of comments, it might be useful if you indicated to whom your accusation is directed, and to which of their comments.

    Or not, up to you.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      The Prof.
      we should stay out.
      we will only reap blame for interfering no matter what we do or who we save.
      we will put boots on the ground and have the people we are trying to help shooting us in the back.

Nope, Congress should just say “no” and should refuse supplemental appropriations to fund any action in Syria.

There is no case for this war other than Barack Obama’s ego and personal credibility.

I’m not willing to ask any American to die for either one.

Syria is not worth the healthy bones of a single Pomeranian Grenadier.

If McCain says it’s “Catastrophic” not to approve Obama’s intervention in Syria, that is good enough for me….to oppose it in every manner possible. By “Catastrophic” he must mean for the progressive agenda.

For those who are convinced that it is Assad deploying sarin nerve gas, please recall that Syrian rebels were caught just inside Turkey from the Syrian border with a 2 kg cannister of sarin gas:

“Russia has called on Turkey to share its findings in the case of Syrian rebels who were seized on the Turkish-Syrian border with a 2kg cylinder full of nerve gas sarin.

Russia’s top foreign official Sergei Lavrov tolday said the Kremlin wanted to get clear on the issue of chemical weapons used in Syria, since the allegation had taken on the role of a trading card in the conflict, becoming a focus of constant provocations.

“I do not rule out that some force may want to use it [the rumour] to say that the “red line” has been crossed and a foreign intervention is needed,” the minister said.

“We are still waiting on a comprehensive report from our Turkish colleagues,” he added, citing the incident when a gang of terrorists carrying a canister with nerve gas sarin was arrested inside the Turkish territory about two weeks ago.”

Turkish Weekly:

Proof? Hardly. But do we feel certain that Assad’s use of Sarin gas has been proved?

Many are expressing confusion as to the exact nature of the threat to US national interests which inheres in the Syrian Crisis.

Allow me to clarify the issue: the overriding threat to US national interest is the enhancement of the power and political standing of Obama.

It is Obama who must be defeated here and now; the Middle Eastern players represent no existential threat and can be dealt with later if we see fit.

The same cannot be said of Obama.

I’m sorry to be blunt, but anyone supporting Obama’s wag the dog adventurism is simply foolish.

The enemy is Obama. Defeat him.

I am astounded at the selfishness I am seeing. So many excuses to get around our moral obligation to defend the weak when simple to do so. Prof. Jacobson is sound-minded and above the fray as always.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to enzo. | September 2, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    I’ll see your astounded and raise you two naivetes for not understanding how many countries in the world have weak citizens in need of defense. Do you propose we also defend the weak in North Korea, Iran, China, Somalia, etc., etc.? If not, why not? Are you that selfish?

    What is your rank in service? That of your spouse? Your children? Anyone you know?

    Just curious.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    If Obama is doing this to defend the weak, he ought to make that known. All I’ve heard so far is that he wants to punish Assad.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to enzo. | September 2, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Why is it selfish to refuse to spend American blood and treasure on the usual Arab sectarian warfare? Why is it selfish to refuse to fight on the same side as Al Qaeda? Why is it selfish to let Allah sort them out?

Political considerations/scenarios:

1. Congress approves, Syria attacked, nothing but good results:

Obama takes sole credit, castigates Congress, specifically the GOP, for delaying his wondrous, baby-saving decision.

2. Congress approves, Syria attacked, nothing but bad results:

Obama blames Congress, specifically GOP, for delaying his decision to attack, an attack that would have worked if it weren’t for those dithering GOP members.

3. Congress refuses approval, Syria attacked anyway, nothing but good results:

Obama and the media have a freakin’ field day. Obama’s polls shoot up and a miracle occurs – a lame duck gets up and walks. He gets his political mojo back.

4. Congress refuses approval, Syria not attacked, Assad commits further atrocities, uses gas again:

Obama blames congress, specifically the GOP, holds up pictures of dead Syrian babies, media replays it for months.

5. Congress refuses approval, Syria not attacked, Assad commits no atrocities, does not use sarin gas:

Obama wipes brow, utters a secret “whew!”, ignores the whole sorry affair, while the media takes its cue to spike the story, never to speak of it again, like F & F, Benghazi, IRS, AP/Rosen, Holder contempt, etc. Obama, however, slides into full lame duck status, plays spades with Reggie Love for next three years.

Those are the five general possible outcomes, barring some completely wild event, like Iran attacking Israel out of the blue or something. The only good outcome for the GOP and conservatives is #5. Vote NO.

The history of conflict between western culture and eastern culture has challenged leaders and diplomats for centuries. And just because everyone in the world is now on the internet doesn’t change the fundamentals of the core divisions. Neither the goofball in the White House nor any of his fool advisors is a capable strategist to deal with Syria. We all know that. Congress just has to admit it by saying no to any authorization.

Just go pass out some more phones, Bammy.

We have no national interest in Syria. Obama might have an ideological interest in protecting Sunni Muslims from having their arses waxed by the Alawites and other Shi’a, but we don’t. Congress should not grant approval for the US to fight on the same side as Al Qaeda. What is the point in giving Obama consent to fire a shot across Assad’s bows? If he wants to do that and it rebounds on him, he built it, and he’ll have to own it. The lack of a military plan, the total unseriousness of Obama, his unwillingness to take advice from others, his inability to see anything but his own self-interest all should inform Congress that they should do as the UK Parliament did and vote against US military intervention in Syria.

Did we intervene when Saddam gassed the Kurds, Wm? We had a no fly zone eventually to protect them. Well, let’s offer the Syrian Jews (are there any?) and the Christians asylum. Let the rest duke it out. Let’s stay out of the way of their 1,300 year war.

Here are the criteria that need to be met if Congress is considering authorizing use of force:

Have all neocons suddenly lost their minds? The United States of America can no longer afford to be the World’s Police Force. Our economy is in tatters, don’t you know(?) and the effect of escalating war in the middle east AGAIN will open the floodgates to cause economic catastrophe.

Worse – under Obama – our recent war adventures have been especially flaky. Picking fights for political gain just has to cease now. Does anyone actually believe the stories that John Kerry is touting? Lest we forget he told another war story in April 1971 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command….

They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

Newt Gingrich, a neocon himself, recently addressed this issue:

“[A]t some point, even if you are a neoconservative, you need to take a deep breath to ask if our strategies in the Middle East have succeeded.” Questioning the approach of exporting democracy through the barrel of a gun, Gingrich went on, “I think it would be healthy to go back and war-game what alternative strategies would have been better, and I like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul because they are talking about this.”

I have never been accused of being an isolationist but I am a conservative accountant who is scared to death about the economy and not so much by chemical weapons being used by muslim crazies against one another.

I wrote to Speaker Boehner and suggested a simple resolution. The President is authorized to take aggressive military action against the Syrian regime upon certifying to the Congress, and the people, which U.S. national interests he is supporting; and upon specifying how his intended actions will advance those interests.

Beyond that he is required–in light of the approaching debt ceiling–to annotate the costs of his intended actions and identify the funding.

If he is unable to completed these straightforward tasks, there is no justification for taking the country to war. Despite the obfuscation on the subject, bombing a sovereign country is an act of war. Remember Pearl Harbor?

The arguments advanced today by McCain, Graham and Lieberman are specious. America is not ruled by a dictator, and the world needs to understand, if it does not already. A President cannot flap his jaws and force us into war. On the other hand, when our national interests are at risk, The Congress and the People will join the President in vigorously defending them. That is the message that needs transmitting. First to the White House, then to the world.

For once I disagree with you. This is a good opportunity for Congress to send a no confidence vote to a third rate President.

G-d help me, but I’m going to try and accurately relate something I heard law professor John Eastman (Chapman University) say in a friend’s backyard gathering last Wednesday: that our country shouldn’t have to authorize the use of force based on a president’s whim or emotional reaction that he happens to spew out in a speech somewhere (i.e. the “red line”).

A commenter suggested that Senators vote “present”. Though I view a “present” vote as a despicable abdication of a Senator’s responsibility, this might be a time to do it. Would it not send a vote of non-support while dumping Obama’s international faux-pas back onto him? Would it not prevent him from blaming the GOP? I admit this idea is rather Machiavellian, but Obama’s going-to-Congress gambit is also Machiavellian. The con that I see to this idea is that it is a political solution for the GOP which might continue the “modern” idea that a President can attack any country without Congressional approval – an idea I abhor – if Obama goes ahead with his shot over the bow. Thoughts anyone (especially Branca as I rather respect your thoughts)?
PS: voting “present” on this issue would be delicious, ironic pay-back for all the times Senator Obama voted “present”.

    Voting present would send a message that the Republicans are playing cynical politics. They need to do the right thing: vote for what’s best for the country, not for what’s best to hurt Obama. (I presume that’s a no vote, but yes or no, they need to play it straight, not as a ploy. The media are always glad to characterize Democrat’s interests as “priorities” while the same Republican interests are “strategies.” )

    Musson in reply to aGrimm. | September 3, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I believe Obama will pull a Keystone Pipeline response. He will postpone and postpone and hope the Civil War ends or Assad is assasinated first.

    Musson in reply to aGrimm. | September 3, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I believe Obama will pull a Keystone Pipeline response. He will postpone and postpone and hope the Civil War ends or Assad is assasinated first.

Killing with the use of WMD is no more disturbing than with conventional arms. Dead is dead and it matters not a wit how those souls died to those that are disturbed by it.

After reading thru this article it’s almost like you would be cool with the death of 1500 civilians had Assad shelled a town for two days straight.

Sorry, but the use of force in Syria in SUPPORT of Al Queda is a non starter.

Sorry Mr. Jacobson. To your and Paul Mirengoff both I say “no”. We should not be a party to supporting the forces of Al Queda, regardless of the transgressions of their opponents. I will not criticize Obama if he does it on his own accord, as I believe that a President must have room to maneuver with regard to diplomacy and hostile action, but I do not think that Congress should bless it. This is Obama’s fear speaking, not his need.

You are dead wrong, Professor. We must not enter into a war between Muslims factions that are both the bad and worst. Enough of American blood and treasure. Let God sort them out. We have no dog in this fight.

Isn’t Syria allied with Shia Iran? Isn’t Turkey primarily Sunni? Erdogan and Obama are good buddies, are they not? Seems to me it would be to Erdogan’s benefit to knock-out Assad’s rule, displacing him with Al-qaeda Sunnis — and Brotherhood allies. Everywhere we look in the ME, Obama’s policy has been to replace strong-man regimes with his Brotherhood friends.

I can’t imagine why the US Congress would want to help Obama help Erdogan and the Brotherhood, unless of course the Brotherhood itself is leaning on Congress; and given the spit in the face to Michele Bachmann and her handful of colleagues by Boehner for having the temerity to question the wisdom of State’s Clinton girl-pal Abedin “in the loop” so to speak, one has to wonder just how polluted the swamp is.

Rush spent lots of time today discussing this article by Yossef Bodansky: “Did the White House Help Plan the Syrian Chemical Attack?

There is a growing volume of new evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East — mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its sponsors and supporters — which makes a very strong case, based on solid circumstantial evidence, that the August 21, 2013, chemical strike in the Damascus suburbs was indeed a pre-meditated provocation by the Syrian opposition.


Two points, sir.

Congress was consulted as an attempt at finding someone *other than Obama* to blame for doing nothing. They were not consulted before the initial targets were listed, they were not consulted prior to the Libya attacks either. Nor, under the War Powers Act, do they need to be. Obama seeks to use Congress as a scapegoat, I do not see why they need play along.

As for Syria and chemical weapons, let those who supply Syria stomp them. That’d appear, to this cat, to be the Russians, via Iran. A competent foreign policy arm would be able to make the case that Russia needs to reign in Assad, eh? Sadly, we don’t seem to have one of those anymore.

In short, your case is insufficient. I encourage Congress to vote “Present”.


Does not the USA attacking Syria make the Syrians victims twice over? If we could say with confidence that the point of our attack on Syria was to remove Assad and place Syria under our protection and control, then yes, making Syrians a victim twice over would be justified.

We can argue that we don’t know what Obama will do, but the chances of Syria coming under our protection and control are vanishingly small. Removing Assad from power isn’t likely either; the administration has said as much. If somehow, Assad were to be removed from power, then control of Syria would most likely fall to al Qaeda or remain in a state of civil war.

The cost of doing nothing, it is claimed, harms American credibility. Having elected Obama twice, has already harmed America’s credibility. Have we not already earned our share of shame?

Well, why doesn’t Obama pitch it to the UN???
Are we supposed to pick up the tab for everything?
Anybody in Syria gonna be our buddies after we do something?
International law… are those just sounds people make?
You wanna do this, fine. Where is any support?
There is no support?
Because, it is unsupportable.

And we go blazing in to save Syria, the same country the Benghazi 4 died for that never even received an authorization from the President to save them… and were working on a covert Syrian Rebel Arms supply mission .
We get to die for who? For What???
At this point… what does it matter???
It matters. And I am pretty sure that you should recognize that.
I mean really, this is a bit bizarre.